What Goes Up Must Come Down

High Time In The Rockies

High Time In The Rockies

We’ll apologize up front for the length of this entry but it does cover  5 weeks and almost 2,000 miles!

After our week in Durango we began our travels eastward. We began in the Rockies from a high point of 12,126′ at Cottonwood Pass on the Continental Divide while taking a day hike. For comparison that’s 42% up Mount Everest. From there it was all downhill to Charlotte, NC at approximately 750′. We spent 3 relaxing days at Elk Creek CG in Blue Mesa NRA before moving on to Boyd’s Lake SP in Loveland, Colorado

Our stop in Loveland was primarily for RV warranty work on our slides and stabilizing the refrigerator. We also wanted to see why our batteries were not charging while we are driving. That turned out to be a problem with the truck so off to the Chevy dealer. We are finding getting anything but emergency items addressed under the manufacture’s warranty while on the road difficult. Everyone is “too busy”. Maybe I’m getting cynical in my old age but I think it’s really because they don’t get paid for it. More work needs to be done but we’ll wait until this winter in Arkansas. Next was Opal’s overdue visit to Banfield for her yearly checkup. She’s doing great for a 12 year old dog. The visit was a pleasure for both Opal and the vet… NOT! Then there was laundry, groceries and Walmart. All work and no play? Not us! We took in The Bensen Sculpture Garden, enjoyed a 10 mile bike ride on the bike trail at the park and ate at 2 Triple D spots. The restaurants were 451 in Fort Collins and Foolish Craig’s in Boulder. 451 was an upscale spot with good food but more pricey than the usual Triple D places. Foolish Craig’s was an eclectic spot with delicious crepes and other main dishes.

We drove to Rocky Mountain NP twice hoping the pass was open but had to settle for short hikes around Bear Lake and enjoy the elk bugling. On our second trip we stopped at the Colorado Cherry Company and fell in love with their tart cherry juice. We found spots in the RV to carry four gallons with us. We also took a long drive around to the south entrance to RMNP through the Arapaho-Roosevelt National Forest. We stopped at the Forest Office and as luck would have it talked with the lead ranger who is also the volunteer coordinator. Turns out that his wife is the volunteer coordinator for RMNP too. We exchanged cards for a possible future work camp position.

Traveling East Fall 2016

Traveling East Fall 2016

Bear Lake At RMNP

Bear Lake At RMNP

Girls Day Out

Girls Day Out

Can you Hear Me Now?

Can you Hear Me Now?

Wanna Play?

Wanna Play?

Moving into eastern Colorado we left the beautiful mountains for the open plains. A dramatic contrast to be sure. Here we stayed at John Martin State Park on the Arkansas River. This park has the longest pull through sites we’d ever seen. There is electricity at the site but common water. Steve devised an easy way of refilling our water tank by immersing a marine bilge pump in a 10 gallon container then plugging it into the truck cigarette lighter port. BAM! Only 50 seconds to transfer water. We took time to select photos for our annual gift calendar and relaxed. We did visit 2 National Park sites: Sand Creek Massacre and Bent’s Old Fort. Both were very interesting. Sand Creek Massacre is a relatively new park and in the early stages of development. They have just received funding for a Visitor Center. We were fortunate to arrive just in time for a ranger talk about the event. He was one of the best interpreters we have heard. I wish more people would visit these smaller parks. They are hidden gems. Having been raised on the east coast we never studied or read about these formative events in our country’s history. Bent’s Old Fort was the first permanent settlement in the area and served as trading post and social gathering place in the first half of the 19th century. The building today is a recreation of the fort from plans sketched by a visitor. The rangers are not in the trademark uniform but wear period costumes and give informal talks. The two sites contrast each other: one a site of Manifest Destiny and military might overpowering native people and the other a thriving settlement where traders, mountain men and Native Americans coexisted peacefully.

Sand Creek Massacre Location

Sand Creek Massacre Location

Native American Monument At Sand Creek

Native American Monument At Sand Creek

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

View Of Bent's Old Fort NHS

View Of Bent’s Old Fort NHS

A Demonstration Of Knife Making

A Demonstration Of Knife Making

Trading Post At Bent's Old Fort

Trading Post At Bent’s Old Fort

Now we move on to Kansas. We found a fabulous place to stay at Cedar Bluff SP. Some sites offer full hookups for $19/night. It is a busy park in the summer however in late October only lightly used. For most of our stay we were the only RV in our loop. Opal enjoyed her off leash walks. Now, being the only dog in the park is the way I like it! (Opal) Many folks simply rush across Kansas. This is our third visit to the state and we have found interesting things to do each time. The closest town of any size is Hays, KS. On our way there for errands we noticed a sign for the Walter P. Chrysler Home Museum. We stopped in Ellis on our way back to see it. Turned out to be a great small town museum to their most famous son. We didn’t know much about him but after touring his boyhood home and learning about him we’d like to read a biography. Two of the most interesting displays were his own car (#6 off the line) complete with wooden wheels and his desk.  Another “self made man” story. 

Museum In Ellis, Kansas

Museum In Ellis, Kansas

Chrysler's Car

Chrysler’s Car

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Desk Used By Chrysler

Desk Used By Chrysler

One More For The Reading List

One More For The Reading List

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While in the central western area of Kansas we also visited the Santa Fe Trail Museum, Fort Larned NHS and Nicodemus NHS. The SFT Museum detailed travels of pioneer families during the westward migration of the mid to late 1800s plus those who used the trail before them. Well worth stop. Fort Larned is another of the NPS sites dedicated to the series of forts built as protection and evidence of ownership as what was thought of as “The West” moved onward. At first you look at all the names carved into the buildings as graffiti but later realize this is an archive of those who passed through here. Before the NPS took over and restored the site locals came here often to picnic so many names are post fort and early to mid 1900s. The site is large and beautifully equipped with all the items one would find at an active post of its day. Nicodemus is a relatively new NPS site about former slaves who formed settlements in the midwest and west post Civil War. There are 5 remaining buildings of which 2 are open to the public.

Fort Larned Architecture

Fort Larned Architecture

Graffiti Or History

Graffiti Or History

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Larned Harness Shop

Larned Harness Shop

Fort Larned Hospital

Fort Larned Hospital

Quarter Master's Office

Quarter Master’s Office

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Post Commissary

Post Commissary

nicodemus-vc

Nicodemus NHS

Our final stop was for dinner in Hays. The area was originally settled by German immigrants and still has strong ties to its heritage. We decided to try a local micro-brewery/restaurant called Gella’s Diner. Steve had sauerkraut soup and a bratwurst platter while I enjoyed a potato soup and local specialty called a bierock. What’s a bierock, you ask? It is a meat, cabbage and onion mixture in a pastry. It is served with a sharp cheddar/ale sauce. MMMmmm good! We certainly do a good job of traveling on our stomachs!

Gella's Diner In Hays, KS

Gella’s Diner In Hays, KS

Next stop: Oologah, Oklahoma. This is our first trip to the state of Oklahoma. Now we only have 4 states left in the lower 48 to have the RV. Our reason for coming here was to visit two of Steve’s cousins. Unfortunately one of them was in the process of moving and not able to come. We had planned to stay closer to Tulsa at a USACE park but at the last minute noted on the website a comment about low branches. Oh no! Been there, done that. So we chose Hawthorn Bluff USACE CG on Lake Oologah. We’d hoped to stay a week but the campground was closing down for the year on 10/31. So we quickly booked three nights at another USACE park on Lake Dardanelle in Arkansas. Besides seeing relatives we visited two sites about Oologah’s most famous son, Will Rogers. The first was his birthplace and the other was the Will Rogers Museum. I know who Will Rogers was but didn’t know much about him other than his witty sayings.  He began as a trick roper and later added his trademark humor and wit at the suggestion of his wife. He was always very proud of his Cherokee heritage. He progressed on to lectures and newspaper columns until perishing in an airplane crash in Alaska with Wily Post. The museum is huge and has some fantastic videos of his roping tricks. You can easily see why he “never met a man he didn’t like”.

He Never Met A Man He Didn't Like

He Never Met A Man He Didn’t Like

Will Rogers Birthplace

Will Rogers Birthplace

Will Rogers Statue

Will Rogers Statue

Will Rogers Museum

Will Rogers Museum

 

 

Extensive Exhibits Can Be Found Inside

Extensive Exhibits Can Be Found Inside

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of course we had to go when we found there was a Diners, Drive-ins and Dives spot nearby called Clanton’s. The owners are the fourth generation to run this Route 66 cafe since 1947. Known for their fried chicken and chicken fried steak, you best go early or plan on waiting in line. On our way home I spotted a sign for a Folk Art site. Steve asked “Do you REALLY want to go? He was hoping Chari would say no (meanwhile thinking of Lucas, KS). Yes she said. So off we went. The “artwork” by Ed Galloway was several concrete sculptures including the world’s biggest totem pole. The totem pole is 90′ tall, 18′ in diameter and displays 200 carved images. It took eleven years to build. We were there only a few minutes when the caretaker had to leave on a family emergency. Steve was VERY relieved!

Clanton"s Cafe On Route 66

Clanton”s Cafe On Route 66

This Is Triple D All The Way!

This Is Triple D All The Way!

He Liked It!

He Liked It!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The World's Largest Totem Pole

The World’s Largest Totem Pole

More Ed Galloway Art

More Ed Galloway Art

In The Eye Of The Beholder

In The Eye Of The Beholder

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At Corinth, MS we finally caught up with our reservations made before leaving Utah. We were there visiting Chari’s relatives. Previously we had stayed at J. P. Coleman SP. However, knowing the park we felt our new trailer would have difficulty maneuvering into the sites even though they were technically long enough. So we chose Piney Grove CG, a USACE park on Bay Springs Lake. The lake is part of the Tennessee-Tombigbee Canal project built during the late 70s for barge traffic. While it has never seen the volume of traffic hoped for it does provide a wonderful recreation area. 700 acres of my first husband’s family farm was purchased for what is now called Crow’s Neck. There is an environmental Education facility there.  The RV sites at Piney Grove are large. The only downside is the thick tree cover making TV reception minimal.

We were lucky enough to have arrived for the Grand Illumination Celebration. This used to be an annual event in Corinth but with budget cutbacks it had not been held for three years. The Grand Illumination acknowledges casualties from the Battle of Shiloh and both Battles of Corinth for control of the railroad by placing 6,000 luminaries around town and at the NPS Civil War Interpretation Center. Each luminary is a casualty of the conflict. This year the Interpretation Center had a speaker on the topic of “The Role of Camels in the Civil War”. That’s right… camels. So here is the tale of Old Douglas. Old Douglas arrived by ship from the middle east in the 1850s. He was purchased to work on a plantation. When his master joined the Confederacy so did Old Douglas. Don’t get the idea he swept into battle Lawrence of Arabia style. His job was to carry the regimental band instruments. Old Douglas was in Vicksburg when he was shot and killed. Vicksburg had been under siege and soldiers were reduced to eating their boots. Let it be known Old Douglas did not die in vain. One thousand pounds of meat was a blessing to soldiers and civilians alike. We also visited two of the five Civil War era homes that remain in Corinth.

luminaries

Then we had the last two long driving days to get to the Charlotte, NC area. Our overnight stop just north of Atlanta was a very nice USACE park named McKinney CG on Allatoona Lake. We’ll remember this one for a future visit to the Peachtree state. Likewise our stay at Ebenezer County Park near Rock Hill, SC was great. We cleared out our storage unit. All of our worldly possessions now fit either in the RV, truck or a 3’x3′ storage cube.

Lastly we headed to Chambersburg, PA for Thanksgiving with Steve’s family. Our only non family activity was a visit to Gettysburg Military Park and the Eisenhower Farm. We didn’t know that this was a special weekend celebrating the anniversary of the declaration of Emancipation. The park had several authors of historical fiction on hand. Steve met one of his favorite authors, Jeff Shara. The town of Gettysburg had a parade with over 500 re-enactors dressed in a variety of uniforms and period dress.

Gettysburg Diorama Scene

Gettysburg Diorama Scene

Abe, Mary and Winfield Scott

Abe, Mary and Winfield Scott

Drummer Boy

Drummer Boy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Long Parade

A Long Parade

Union Troops

Union Troops

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Confederates

The Confederates

women-in-parade

Women Marchers

Zouave Unit

Zouave Unit

 

We packed a lot into our trip east and hope you have enjoyed this leg of our travels as we visit the icons and hidden gems across the USA.

Tidbits #1

While we’ve been spending time at our first volunteer job at Red Rock Lakes NWR, we’ve been collecting interesting stories and information that in and of themselves don’t make up a post. However we thought by lumping them together you might find it interesting.

While at the refuge we were asked to compile a list of the historical documents and photos on file here. That meant going back through the annual reports from 1935-present and several other files. We really enjoyed reading about the early years of the refuge.

stagecoach, Yellowstone, Red Rock Lakes NWR, history

Shambow Stage Stop Map

Prior to the refuge the Centennial Valley was settled under the Homestead Act. When we get around to catching up on our time in Nebraska and our visit to Homestead National Monument, you’ll hear more about it. When Yellowstone became our first National Park it was very difficult to get there. Monida, MT (28 miles west of Lakeview where the refuge is located) had a railroad station. The Shambow Stage Stop for the M&Y stage line (Monida-Yellowstone Stage) was established across from present day Shambow Pond in the valley. Travelers would spent the night at the Shambow Pond Stage Stop and continue to Yellowstone (45 miles east) the next day. A long hard trip to be sure. In 1898 the business consisted of 12 Concord coaches that could carry 11 passengers, 4 smaller coaches carrying 3 passengers, 80 horses and 40 employees. By 1915 the business had expanded and carried 40% of the 20,000 people who visited Yellowstone NP. The M&Y Stage offered three different travel packages. While the stage stop is long gone, the Shambow homestead still exists. Plans are for the Centennial Valley Historical Society to restore the run down site  and use it for their Visitor Center and library.

mountain bike, race, Great Divide

Great Divide Trail

Visitors from all over the USA and several foreign countries have visited this summer. We’ve met people from France, Germany, Italy, England, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, China and Japan. Many were visiting Yellowstone while several others were mountain biking the Great Divide Trail. The trail runs along the Continental Divide for 2745 miles from Banff in Canada to Antelope Wells, New Mexico. Some bikers devote the entire summer to riding the whole trail. Others have only a week or two to ride a segment. Steve and the refuge manager responded to an emergency signal from a monitoring company one Saturday. Fortunately it turned out to be a false alarm. However the refuge did assist one unfortunate biker who arrived with a torn Achilles tendon and other ills by driving him to the nearest medical facility about an hour away.  Each June there is a race along the entire trail. This year’s winner completed the race in a bit over 16 days and 2 hours to average 170 miles a day!

Another adventurous duo we met the first day we were here. Two young men arrived at the refuge pulling kayaks along. They had been on the trail for three days and expected their trip to take 5 months. They were doing the Source to Sea Route. This runs from Brower’s Spring (the most distant tributary of the Missouri River) on Sawtelle Mountain to the mouth of the Mississippi River at the Gulf of Mexico. They had to hike from the spring until they reached navigable water. Then they would paddle the rest of the way. One young man just graduated from film school and hopes to make an independent film about their trip.

Red Rock Lakes NWR is the setting for E. B. White’s Trumpet of the Swan, a well known children’s book. When a teacher from Arkansas called asking for any material we had that she could use as her class would be reading the book this year, we made a DVD from our photos showing where Louis, the swan with a trumpet, lived. It is short, only 7 minutes so we are including it here.

We have made new friends not only among the staff here but visitors as well. One couple from New Mexico shared our interest in photography. We sat and visited for over an hour one Saturday and have established e-mail contact. We certainly hope our paths will cross again. Another full time RV couple visited the refuge and shared a touching story. They began their RV life after losing their previous home about three years prior to a Texas wildfire. Having decided they could not rebuild and live happily in the charred land that was once so beautiful, they bought a RV and set out in search of a new home town. After six weeks of being on the road they decided they loved the lifestyle and were already “home”.

flamingo, Pink Floyd, children's books

Pink Floyd In Flight

However, our most memorable visitors were a couple who came in and asked “what do you know about a flamingo that used to live here?” I thought to myself, sure, a flamingo in Montana! I asked the Office Manager who had been here for 25 years. Surprisingly she said “You mean Pink Floyd?” Yes, there really was a flamingo here! The story goes like this. A flamingo escaped from an aviary in Salt Lake City, Utah and set up a new home on an island in the Great Salt Lake. In the summer his mixed flock of gulls and snow geese would migrate to Lima Reservoir about 25 miles west of the refuge. Occasionally the flock would come over to the Red Rock Lakes. Pink Floyd summered in southwestern Montana from 1988-2005. The wife of this couple, Sheila Parr Taylor, has written a children’s book called Pink Floyd, the Flyaway Flamingo.  It’s a beautifully illustrated book by J. Kenneth Allein. For more information write the author at P.O.Box 1455, East Lansing, MI 48826-1455 or email her at pfpubs@gmail.com.

duck banding, Montana

Chari Waiting For The Duck Drive

Driving A Brood

Driving A Brood

As a farewell activity we participated in the initial week of Lesser Scaup (duck) banding on Lower Red Rock Lake. This lake is very shallow with numerous grassy islands making it prime habitat for water birds. While waiting for the roundup to begin Steve captured a trumpeter swan family out for a swim (see blog header). He also took a pic of me, as he says, waiting to head them off at the pass. A net trap is set up and several canoes/kayaks and a rowboat are used to gather small groups of ducklings into a large group and guide them into the mouth of the trap where they are scooped up and placed in boxes. The day we went we gathered two groups for a total of close to one hundred birds. They are transported to shore and we split into two groups. The ducklings were separated by sex and whether they had been previously marked. Data on all birds is recorded such as length of the tarsus, back of head to tip of beak and weight. The smallest birds are placed in a cone to weigh while larger birds are hooked by the leg band. Smaller ducklings were web tagged with a staple like numbered clip. Larger ducklings were given a leg band. The largest females also were nasal tagged with plastic markers making it easier to track them without having to recapture them. Of course the ducks had their own way of letting us know what they thought of all this! At the end of the day we set them free and watched them swim happily away.

Working At The Trap

Working At The Trap

Recording Data Onshore

Recording Data Onshore

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Measuring The Tarsus

Measuring The Tarsus

Donald Or Daisy?

Donald Or Daisy?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The scenery and wildlife have been spectacular but the history and interesting people we’ve met have been an added bonus. This is our last post from the refuge  It’s been a wonderful Summer at Red Rock Lakes NWR.

Freedom!

Freedom!

Make That Two For The Road

RV, fulltimers, travel,

Chari And Steve’s Travels For Year Two On The Road

WOW!!  Can it really be two years since we pulled out of our driveway in Charlotte, NC leaving life as we’d known it for a modern day Travels With Charlie or in our case Opal? The answer is yes. We have 65,500 miles on the truck to prove it. In 2014 we stayed in 39 campgrounds and travelled 33,500 miles with about 30% of the time pulling the trailer. If you want to look at the map above in full screen just double click over the picture.

The Gypsy And The Vagabond

The Vagabond And The Gypsy

We made our first international trip to the Canadian Maritime Provinces. Chari has learned to hook up and disengage the truck and trailer. As of last week she now has driven interstates, backroads and into a truck stop. Learning to back into a campsite is a goal for year three. Real women drive RVs! After eighteen months of being east of the Mississippi River we’ve now crossed over to explore the west for a few years.

We’ve also experienced the down side of mechanical failure and accidents. Even this hasn’t caused us to question our decision to continue the RV lifestyle. We love it. We’ve seen and done so much only to discover we’ve barely scratched the surface.

We are officially SoDaks now, that’s residents of South Dakota. This is one of the most popular states for full timers to use for residency.

Most of all we hope you’ve enjoyed traveling with us. What will Year Three bring our way? You’ll just have to pack your virtual bags and come along.

And now we return you to your regularly scheduled blog…

blog, travel, RV, explore

We’ve Come A Long Way, Baby!
(Year 1 Yellow and Year 2 Red)

The Silver Lining To Being Trapped In South Florida

Everglades, observation tower

Observation Tower At Shark Valley in Everglades NP

Before we begin if you haven’t read WHY WE DISAPPEARED go back and look at this post. Things will make a lot more sense to you. As we found ourselves cycling back and forth to the Ft. Myers/Naples area for repairs we had to cancel reservations. Finding new places was a challenge because this was peak season. All of the state parks and COE campgrounds were booked. Finally we were able to get a site at Midway Campground in Big Cypress National Preserve for 10 days, exactly the length of time we needed until our last repair. As it turned out this stop would become one of our favorite places. To think we almost had passed it by.  A silver lining to an otherwise terrible time.

Midway Campground is located on the Tamiami Trail, US 41, between Miami and  Naples. The sites are set overlooking a small pond and are electric with tank water. The odd thing about it is while there are public restrooms there are no showers. To make our water last we used portable jugs for everyday supply, restrooms except at night and “Navy” showers. It worked just fine. The weather in early March was great. Spring was coming and over the period we were there the Cardinal bromeliads hanging on the trees burst into bloom. Big Cypress became a national park site when concerned citizens fought plans to build the world’s largest jet port here in the 1960s. It sits on the western edge of the Everglades.

birds, heron

Handsome Blue Heron

Big Cypress, bromeliad

Cardinal Bromeliad In Bloom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

wild orchid, wildflowers

Cow Horn Orchid Closeup

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

alligator, swamp, photography

Aluminum Alligator

If we thought we saw birds at Flamingo CG, that was only a prelude to Big Cypress and two other Everglades areas; Shark Valley and Ten Thousand Islands. Birds, bromeliads, orchids, alligators, manatees, flying fish and cypress swamps made this a photographers dream. The two parks have joined together to promote the “Get Outdoors” program. They have the Tamiami Triathalon. This is not a race but a series of three activities you do at your own schedule. To get credit for each segment you check in at the appropriate Visitor Center before and after and get them to sign off on your participation form. The Tamiami Triathalon consists of a 15 mile bike ride at Shark Valley, a 6 mile kayak paddle at Ten Thousand Islands and a 5 mile hike on the Florida Trail from Big Cypress. We did it! Not bad for two mid-sixties folks, huh?

egret, swamp

Looks Like A Painting

Shark Valley, biking

Steve On The Shark Valley Trail

limpkin, snail, birds, nature

Limpkin With Apple Snail

We took the tram tour at Shark Valley first and learned a lot. A few days later we biked the trail while decked out with cameras, camel backs and tripods tied to our bike frames. We saw a Limpkin eating an Apple Snail, Roseate Spoonbills, egrets, anhingas, many types of heron and baby gators.

Everglades, Shark Valley, tram,

Shark Valley Tram Tour

birds, Florida Birding Trail

Roseate Spoonbill And Woodstork

birds, photography

Little Blue Heron

anhinga, shorebirds

Anhinga Chicks Almost Ready To Fledge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

baby alligators

Naptime

The next day we took a Ranger led swamp walk at Big Cypress and were treated to a gorgeous wild, Cow Horn orchid in bloom. This was a very special treat as these orchids only bloom this profusely every three or so years. They have become increasingly rare due to poaching. The water came to Steve’s knees but it was thigh high on Chari. Our whole group was well over 55. No rocking chairs for these Baby Boomers.

hiking, swamp, Big Cypress

NPS Ranger Leading A Swamp Walk

Big Cypress, swamp, hike

Sloshing Through The Swamp

 

Steve On Swamp Hike

Steve On Swamp Hike

We did more than the required paddle trip by going on a Ranger led paddle trip from Ten Thousand Islands. Just beautiful! You felt as if you were on a Caribbean vacation. Combine that with stopping to buy fresh from the boat seafood and you have a perfect day.

One evening we located the roosting spot for several thousand birds. Most of them were ibis with a few egrets and vultures. They flew in by groups of 30-50 for almost an hour. At first the squawking was deafening. As evening settled into night, the noise began to lessen. By nightfall it was so quiet you could have heard a pin drop. If you think this was some secret place, you’re wrong. It was right along the main highway. Cars rushing by not knowing what they were missing. A real National Geographic moment.

ibis, bird roost, Big Cypress

Flying Home For The Night

Closeup of Ibis Roost

Closeup of Ibis Roost

It was just the stop to chase our worries away… until…

While we were in Naples getting the truck repaired a storm developed with high winds. When we got back our screen house was damaged beyond repair. The awning had withstood the wind. The next day shortly after breakfast Steve was outside dismantling the screen house when I heard “Come here and help” in an I need you NOW tone. Wind had come up again and this time forced the arm of the awning out of the track! With difficulty we got it back in place. However we were afraid it might pop loose while traveling so we secured it with a rope.

The planned repair was done in Ft. Myers. Rather than wait for yet more parts we made the decision to go to Plan B and head “home” to North Carolina for the awning repair.

So long, Florida!! We’ll be back but not for quite a while.

A River Of Grass – Everglades National Park

Everglades, national park

A Prairie On Water

sunset, clouds

Everglades Sunset

After all of our problems in Key West, it was wonderful to pull into a wide open, drive through electric site at Flamingo campground in Everglades National Park. Flamingo CG is located at the southernmost area of the Everglades (about 35 miles from the entrance near Florida City) on Florida Bay. Most of the sites are unserviced and available on a first come – first served basis.  Electric sites (tank water) must be reserved on Recreation.gov. Even in late January which is high season, there were plenty of unserviced sites available. Don’t let the statement that only cold water showers are available deter you. While our loop had only cold showers we learned after two days that solar powered hot water showers were available in Loop A just a quick walk or bike ride away. Plan ahead when you come here and have a full tank of gas and all of your groceries. It’s a long way back out although we drove the road many times. However watch your speed on this long drive as rangers patrol and are quick to pull you over (voice of experience.)

Flowering Tree In Everglades NP

Flowering Tree In Everglades NP

Neither of us had been to the Everglades before and didn’t know what to expect. I was so apprehensive about another bout with biting bugs, snakes and other swamp creatures that I’d made overlapping reservations in case we needed to get out.  Nothing could have prepared us for how beautiful this area is. We absolutely loved it! So much so that we cancelled our other reservations and extended our stay from 7 days to 11 days. That meant moving from the electric site to an unserviced one but with our generators it was no problem. We already had mosquito hats. When we saw mosquito net jackets for sale at the marina store we bought them, just in case. Winter is definitely the time to go to avoid the bug problem. We heard that some evenings at the amphitheater were bad for bugs but the nights we went it was breezy and no problem at all.

mangrove tree

Mangroves Along Florida Bay

There are many free Ranger led activities and talks so be sure to pick up a schedule at the Flamingo Visitor Center. We were lucky enough to start our stay off with a talk about manatees. Even though they are nicknamed sea cows their closest relative is the elephant. We joined a 5 hour bird walk during which we saw 41 different species and thanks to a huge flock of coots, an estimated 5,200 birds. We started at the Anhinga Trail. If you do nothing else, do visit this boardwalk trail along Taylor Slough. Take care and follow the directions to vulture-proof your vehicle and cover it with a free tarp. The black vultures in this area attack the rubber around windshields and have been known to pull mirrors off cars. We saw herons, a bittern, a phoebe, purple gallinule, anhinga, wood storks, alligators, a crocodile, spider lilies and even a glimpse of a white crowned pigeon.

kayaking, paddling, Nine Mile Pond

Paddling With A Ranger On Nine Mile Pond

vultures, Everglades

Take Time To Tarp

vulture, Everglades

Vulture Visiting An Unprotected Car

birds, Florida, Everglades, Anhinga Trail

Purple Gallinule “Walking” On Water

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ducks, photography

Three Mottled Ducks

birds, Anhinga Trail

Night Heron

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wood Stork

Wood Stork

 

 

 

 

 

cormorant, breeding plummage

Cormorant With Breeding Season Blue Eye

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

bird watching, Everglades, bittern

Spotting A Bittern On The Anhinga Trail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Little Blue Heron

Little Blue Heron Looking For Dinner

 

 

 

 

phoebe

Phoebe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blue Heron Sporting Breeding Plumage

The Flamingo area is all about water. If you don’t have a boat or kayak/canoe they can be rented at the marina. We did paddle trips on Coot Bay, Florida Bay and Nine Mile Pond. Our first time on Nine Mile Pond was with a Ranger. Later in the week we went with some new RV friends, Donna and Jack from Buffalo, NY. There is a marked water trail through mangrove thickets and marsh areas. On trip #1 I was desperate for a bathroom break as I landed when someone called from shore “I don’t think you want to get out there.” My boat was about 4′ from a large gator tail! I said “thanks” and found another spot. When I returned after driving 5 miles to the nearest toilet, Steve was sitting on a picnic table. We put the boats up and headed home. The next day he said “Did you pick up my camera yesterday?” It was nowhere to be found. PANIC! We checked Lost and Found. No camera. We went back to the pond. No camera. We asked a few people if they’d seen it. NO CAMERA. Then we spotted an outfitter’s van. We asked him. YES! He had picked it up and taken it to his office until he had time to turn it in at the Visitors Center. So we followed him back and retrieved not only Steve’s camera but our paddles and our life jackets. How do you spell relief???? With all the bad news in the world it is really nice to know that good, honest people are not an extinct species. We certainly keep our guardian angel busy!

On one of our trips out of the park we stopped at a local market called Robert Is Here. As the story goes, when Robert (owner) was about five years old he set up a stand on the street corner to sell some veggies from his family’s garden. Cars came and went but no one stopped. He was too small to be easily seen. The next day his Dad made a sign and placed it above the stand, ROBERT IS HERE with an arrow pointing down. Robert sold all the veggies that day. The name stuck and the stand has been a busy place ever since. You can get huge milk shakes in many flavors (we had key lime), buy tropical fruits and fresh veggies or shop for gourmet items.

While kayaking on Florida Bay, Steve took some great pictures of a pelican colony and shorebirds. We also took a short boardwalk hike through Mahogany Hammock where we found some interesting lichen and wood patterns we’ve turned into orbs. We’ll end now with our favorite photo of the whole trip. A too cute for words tree frog.

white, brownpelicans and cormorants copy

White And Brown Pelicans With Cormorants

pelican, photography

Pelican Mom With Chick

osprey, Florida Bay

Osprey In Flight Over Florida Bay

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Palmetto Palm

Palmetto Palm Fan

Mahogany Hammock Boardwalk

Mahogany Hammock Boardwalk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Orb Of Everglades Lichen

Orb Of Everglades Lichen

 

Orb Of Decayed Wood

Orb Of Decayed Wood

tree frog

Too Cute For Words

 

 

 

 

Lake Okechobee, Palm Beach And Old Friends

West Palm Beach

West Palm Beach Panorama

RV, South Bay

Lake Okeechobee and South Bay RV Campground

Next stop on the Florida Snowbird Express was South Bay County Park at the southeast corner of Lake Okeechobee. As with most of the country, winter has been cooler than normal this year. Here we were in south Florida but many mornings were still in the 30s. however daytime temperatures were a pleasant 60-70 degrees. Florida has a network of County Parks and these can be an alternative to staying in the all too popular state parks plus most allow stays longer than two weeks.

South Bay was a very well kept park with large well spaced sites and offers full hookups. Just across the street is a levee for Lake Okechobee with a walking/biking trail at the top. During our stay the weather was too windy and cool for kayaking on the open water. We’d hoped to see if the bass were really as large as they say but that will have to wait for another time. The surrounding area is primarily agricultural (sugar cane growing and refining) so the downside is you must drive an hour or more to sights and attractions.

We did use the biking trail twice for 10-11 mile trips. On the second trip we were on our way home and enjoying seeing pelicans and ibis roosting in trees along the lake. All of a sudden I heard Steve call out “whoa!” and swerve to the right into the grass. Right on the path in front of him was a snake. I past by on the left about three feet away. Steve missed the critter by inches and as he went by it lifted its head six inches, opened its mouth to show fangs and the classic white roof of its mouth. It was a cottonmouth. Way to close for comfort. Neither of us had a cell phone and it made us think a bit about carrying one.  How would we have gotten help if he had been bitten? So from now on we’ll be more prepared. 

We’d come here primarily to see friends recently relocated from Seattle. They have found many activities here and keep very busy. One place they spend a lot of time is the Life Long Learning Center at Florida Atlantic University. They were taking a four week course on the War of 1812 from Dr. Robert Watson. They invited us to come along and we were able to attend as guests for a small fee. Dr. Watson is a most knowledgeable and dynamic teacher. If we lived there we’d be regulars for his classes. In fact we enjoyed the first week so much we returned for the following week. Steve told him the story about his brother and the USS Constitution and was able to send him a copy of the inscription in the Java Bible. In turn when he learned we were going to Key West he told us to see if a friend of his who was the Director at the Truman Little White House would give us a tour.

Florida, sightseeing, Palm Beach

Flagler Museum in
Palm Beach, Florida

Having seen what Henry Flagler built for other people we planned a visit to his Palm Beach estate, Whitehall. This 75 room, 100,000 square foot mansion was built for his third wife in 1902. We strolled the grounds and main floor while waiting for the next docent led tour. If you go definitely take one of the free tours. You will learn so much more than touring on your own. After Henry Flagler died in 1913 his wife moved back to St. Augustine. Upon her death the property was owned by a niece until the mid 1920s when it was sold and converted into a 300 room hotel with a second building  consisting of ten floors attached to the rear.  The original home was used for dining, bar and card rooms. The hotel operated until 1959. By then the once gracious mansion was in severe disrepair and threatened with demolition. Henry Flagler’s granddaughter organized a non-profit corporation to restore the property and opened it to the public in 1960. Through her efforts 90% of the original furnishings and artwork have been recovered. With rooms copied from the Vatican and Versailles this museum is a must see for anyone visiting south Florida. If you visit on a Sunday afternoon you may hear the largest pipe organ ever installed in a private home being played. During the winter “season” the museum also holds classical music performances in the grand ballroom for an addition fee. Enjoy a tour via our photos until you have a chance to visit yourself.

Flagler, Whitehall, Palm Beach

Entrance Hall At Whitehall

Grand Staircase To Second Floor

Grand Staircase To Second Floor

architecture

Whitehall Architecture

One Of The 75 Bedrooms

One Of The 75 Bedrooms

Grand Ballroom At Whitehall Copied From Versailles

Grand Ballroom At Whitehall Copied From Versailles

Grand Ballroom In Use c. early 1900s

Grand Ballroom In Use c. early 1900s

Tiffany

Tiffany Lamp At Whitehall

sculpture

Delicate Sculpture Called Lady In A Veil

railroad

Flagler’s Private Railroad Car

Palm Beach, Florida

Oldest Home In Palm Beach Where The Flagler’s Stayed While Whitehall Was Built.

Tropical Plant In Bloom At Whitehall Gardens

Tropical Plant In Bloom At Whitehall Gardens

We also spent time enjoying two locations along the Florida Birding Trail: Wakodahatchee Wetlands in Delray Beach and Loxahatchee NWR in Boynton Beach. We visited the later on twice, once walking the boardwalk and another taking the volunteer narrated tram tour. Here we spoke to two volunteers who encouraged us to pursue workcamping at NWR sites.

Loxahatchee NWR, lichen

Loxahatchee Air Plant With Baton Rouge Lichen

butterflies

Butterfly At Loxahatchee

birds

Loxahatchee Great White Egret

Flowering Plant Along Loxahatchee Boardwalk

Flowering Plant Along Loxahatchee Boardwalk

fern

Young Fern Unfolding

We learned about the Wakodahatchee Wetlands from another passenger on the Loxahatchee NWR tram ride. Not having anything planned for the afternoon, we decided to visit. What a wonderful surprise! This wetland is created by the county water authority from the discharge of treated sewage.  A mile plus boardwalk has been built through the wetlands allowing birders, photographers and nature lovers to be up close and personal with hundreds of shore and wading birds. Here are some photos from our visit.

Wakodahatchee Wetlands, birds, photography

Wakodahatchee Wetlands Boardwalk

Wood Stork

Wood Stork

anhinga, nest

Female Anhinga On Nest

Great Blue Heron With Reflection

Great Blue Heron With Reflection

Gallinule

Purple Gallinule

photography

Anhinga Chicks Sibling Rivalry

Very Patient Green Heron

Very Patient Green Heron

Mottled Duck

Mottled Duck

Common Gallinule aka Moorhen

Common Gallinule aka Moorhen

Anhinga Feeding Two New Chicks

Anhinga Feeding Two New Chicks

Peace And Quiet In Disney’s Backyard

state park, citrus, Orlando

Citrus Gone Wild

Sorry for the disappearing act over the last month. Between being busy, computer problems, RV problems and poor or no internet connection we had to put the blog on hold. So much for our New Year’s Resolution to catch up and stay caught up. Now that we will have a few days of waiting for some RV repairs and free wifi be prepared for a flood of posts.

From Sebastian Inlet on Florida’s east coast we drove to the Orlando area and stayed at Lake Louisa State Park about 25 miles west of the city. Just what part of “busiest week of the year”, “all kids out of school” and/or “everyone goes to Disney at Christmas” did I not grasp when I scheduled us to be in the area the week between Christmas and New Years? OK, now on to Plan B. We knew we didn’t want to tackle any of the parks and battle the crowds. So what to do? 

Lake Louisa is one of Florida’s newest state parks and situated in an old citrus orchard. Having made reservations as early as we could secured a full hookup site that was very private. We had room to put up our screen tent and took a few days to just relax. What a concept? We need to take more time like this but normally every time we say we’ll relax we find something to do and off we go. The old citrus grove still has fruit bearing trees. We found a few grapefruit still within reach and loads of tangerines or lemons free for the picking. We had so many we even made “care” packages to send north to family who were in the freezing temperature of a severe winter. The lemons were bigger than Chari’s fist and very bumpy. At first we thought maybe they were reverting to a wild strain but then learned it was a variety called a Ponderosa lemon. We made chicken piccata and lemon and orange meringue pies from scratch.

state park, Florida

Kayaking At Lake Louisa SP

kayaking

Along The Canal Between The Lakes

We took time to ride our bikes around the park for about ten miles on two different days. Other times we kayaked on one of the lakes. Our favorite was a wooded canal that ran between Lake Louisa and Lake Minnehaha. While paddling there we met a couple from the Cape Canaveral area and visited with them later that night around a campfire. The old citrus groves had several good trails for walking Opal each morning.

Christmas, Florida

Christmas At Leu Gardens

garden, holiday decorations

On Tour At Leu Gardens

We did take in two sights in the area, Leu Gardens and the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum. At Leu Gardens we joined the garden and this membership gave us  reciprocal free entry for a year to gardens that are participating members of the American Horticultural Society. The original home on the Leu Garden grounds was open for a guided tour. We caught it at the tail end of the Christmas season so it was still decorated. Each year interior design students from a local junior college decorate the rooms based on a theme chosen by the park. This year it was Christmas songs. A very creative group of young designers. Our favorite were the “swans a-swimming” in the bathtub.

Holiday Decorations

Holiday Decorations

The day we visited was a cool and windy day but seeing the texture in the bare trees along with tropical looking plants blooming in mid-winter was a treat.

trees

A Yesterday, Today And Tomorrow Tree

Fothergilla Blossom

Fothergilla Blossom

flowers

Spider Lily

A Study In Texture

A Study In Texture

garden

Orb From Coleus

trees

A Yesterday, Today And Tomorrow Tree

Canna Blooming In January

Canna Blooming In January

Canna In HDR Vintage Colors

Canna In HDR Vintage Colors

rose

This Is Called A Green Rose

Green Rose As A Pencil Drawing

Green Rose As A Pencil Drawing

Rose "Calico"

Rose “Calico”

The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum is a not to be missed attraction in Winter Haven, Florida. The museum was begun to display the art work and Tiffany works owned by its namesake. Later his granddaughter and her husband increased the Tiffany collection. When the former Louis C. Tiffany estate on Long Island burned in the 1950s his priceless works were simply lying scattered. Through personal connections the museum rescued them and now houses the world’s largest collection of Tiffany artwork including the chapel designed for the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. I am seldom speechless but this collection defies description. Be sure to put it on your “must see” list. there is a strict NO PHOTOS policy. The pictures used in this blog are copied from the museum’s website. The colors, the delicate way light is transmitted and the craftsmanship are amazing.

tiffany lamp

Dragonfly Lamp

A Transom Panel circa 1910-1920

A Transom Panel circa 1910-1920

Autumn From The Seasons

Autumn From The Seasons

Daffodil Column From Tiffany Estate

Daffodil Column From Tiffany Estate

Summer Panel From The Seasons

Summer Panel From The Seasons

Spring Panel From The Seasons

Spring Panel From The Seasons

One Of The Windows From A Church

One Of The Windows From A Church

Window Titled 'Feeding The Flamingos'

Window Titled ‘Feeding The Flamingos’

Another Tiffany Lamp

Another Tiffany Lamp

An Unusually Shaped Lamp

An Unusually Shaped Lamp

The Tiffany Chapel

The Tiffany Chapel